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UK Debates to Extend Daylight Saving for Entire Year

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Published 27-Mar-2008

UK: The Palace of Westminster with Big Ben at dusk

The Palace of Westminster with Big Ben

©iStockphoto.com/iliffd

As the United Kingdom (UK) approaches Daylight Saving Time on March 30, 2008, many groups have called for the period to be extended for the entire year. In the eyes of some citizens, the introduction of “Single Double Summer Time” (SDST), synonymous with UTC+1 in the winter and UTC+2 in the summer would mean less road accidents, more leisure time, and a boost to tourism and energy efficiency.

However there are those who disagree that the SDST would benefit the nation. Some fear for the safety of children going to school in the dark mornings, while other workers claim their jobs would be more difficult, particularly for some farmers and laborers, if the sunrise were to occur as late as 10am.

Nonetheless, the UK is set to move its clocks forward by one hour from 1am to 2am in its local time zone to British Summer Time (BST). In the winter, the UK is on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), which is in the same time zone as Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).

Advantages

Tourism operators have reportedly claimed the extended daylight could boost Yorkshire's tourist industry by about £43 million a year because the extra hour's light in the afternoon would give more time for leisure pursuits and lengthen the tourist season.

Safety campaigners, including the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, campaigned to maintain BST during the winter months and to introduce "double summertime" during the summer months. Their campaign was supported by a joint Transport Research Laboratory and University College of London study on the adoption of SDST. The study predicted that less people would be killed and injured in road accidents if one hour of daylight was transferred from the morning to the afternoon.

Others have expressed that the provision of daylight saving all year round would increase energy efficiency, as the longer hours of daylight in the evenings would decrease the need for artificial lighting. It would also allow for increased daylight leisure time at the end of the day for those who work or attend an educational or training institution.

Political Supporters

In 2005, Lord Tanlaw introduced the Lighter Evenings (Experiment) Bill to the House of Lords, which would advance winter and summer time by one hour for a three-year trial period but the government rejected the proposal.

More recently, British Member of Parliament Tim Yeo’s Energy Saving (Daylight) Bill was introduced to advance time in England throughout the year by one extra hour for an experimental period of three years from October 2008 to October 2011. Winter would be one hour ahead of GMT and summer would be two hours ahead. This would increase daylight by one hour in the evenings and decrease it by the same amount in the morning.

The Bill suggested that evenings were the time during which most people were active, so lighter evenings would: reduce energy consumption, as less lighting and possibly heating may be required; and reduce road traffic accidents, as roads would be less busy for longer periods later in the day. It would also bring England’s time in line with Central European Time.

The Bill would provide the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the Northern Ireland Assembly (if not suspended), with powers similarly to change time. The Bill has so far won support from both organizations and citizens campaigning for all-year daylight saving time.  It underwent its second reading in March 2008 but the debate was adjourned due to time constraints.

Disadvantages

The proposed year-long daylight saving extension is opposed by farmers, outdoor workers and many residents of Scotland and Northern Ireland, as it would mean that the winter sunrise would not occur until 10am or later in the northern parts of the UK. Moreover, parents and caregivers expressed concern about children going to school during dark mornings if one hour of morning daylight was to be shifted to the afternoon.

England’s Brief Daylight Saving History

The idea of daylight saving time was first suggested in a letter by Benjamin Franklin in 1784. In 1907, William Willett (whose great-great-grandson is Coldplay musician Chris Martin) campaigned to advance clocks at the beginning of the spring and summer months and to return to GMT in a similar manner in the autumn.

The 1908 Daylight Saving Bill was the first attempt in the UK to move clocks forward one hour in summer. The idea was to provide more daylight hours after work for the training of the Territorial Army and for recreation, to reduce shunting accidents on the railways and to reduce expenditure on lighting. The House of Commons rejected the Bill.

During World War I in 1916, Germany introduced daylight saving in the summer, and countries including Austria, Denmark, France, Portugal, Italy, Norway, and Sweden followed suit.  To save energy and help the war effort, the Summer Time Act 1916 advanced the clocks in the UK for one hour from 21 May until 1 October. The system proved to be popular, so daylight saving time, or summer time, has always been adopted in the UK. However, there were periods, especially during World War II, when the start and end dates were altered or more substantial clock shifts were made.

From 1968-1971 Britain kept daylight saving time (BST) throughout the year mainly for commercial reasons, especially regarding time conformity with other European countries. Although some said it resulted in fewer road traffic accidents, others said that it was a disadvantage for children leaving homes in the dark mornings to attend school. The experiment was abandoned in 1972 because of its unpopularity, particularly in the north. Britain has since kept GMT in winter and BST in summer.

The UK remains in the GMT rather than the CET zone, so the one-hour time difference between the UK and Ireland and most of Europe is unaffected. The Energy Saving (Daylight) Bill seeks to change this by converting England and providing the rest of the UK with the option of converting to SDST.

Please note that references to "summer" or "winter" in this article relate to summer and winter in the northern hemisphere, not the southern hemisphere.

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